It is difficult at best to attempt to deconstruct the art of medicine — or even to define it. In my book the art of medicine includes the science of medicine; subsumes it, if you will; but there is so much more to it. While the science of medicine might take place in the confines of a sterile laboratory or in a pharmacologic interaction within the human body, the art of medicine always takes place between at least two individuals, the clinician and the patient. Practicing the art necessitates a skill set largely learned through experience, honed with compassionate practice. It is certainly more than mere technique.
Although Stephen Bartholomew was not writing specifically about the art of medicine in this passage from Physician Assistant: A Guide to Clinical Practice, he captures its sentiment beautifully for the practicing clinician.
“It is an adventure, the journey inward, to the center of our own being, where all the dragons and all the treasures they guard really reside. The destination of such a journey is well worth the price of the adventure. With humor, with honesty, with humility, we receive as much as or more than we give, remembering:” (here he quotes Joseph Campbell in a passage from Hero with a Thousand Faces)
We have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find God. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. And where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.